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24 in 24: Corpus Christi IceRays

August 21, 2018
The 24 in 24 series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2018-19 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 24 in 24 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 24 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league.  It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
 
Corpus Christi IceRays
Head Coach: Ryan Cruthers (1st Year)
2017-18 record: 27-23-10, 64 pts. (4th in the South Division)
2017-18 leading scorer: Rylee St. Onge (48 pts.)
2018 Playoffs: Lost to the Shreveport Mudbugs in the South Division Semi-Finals, 3 games to 2
2018-19 Division: South
First regular season game: Thursday, September 13th @ Shreveport Mudbugs
Home opener: Friday, September 28th vs. Shreveport Mudbugs
 
The Corpus Christi IceRays finished the 2017-18 season with their second-straight postseason berth for the first time in junior franchise history and were yet again on the cusp of taking the next step towards a Robertson Cup title. However, for the second straight season their run was halted with a close loss in a fifth and decisive game of a playoff series in a close 2-1 loss in Game 5 of the South Division Semi-Finals to the eventual Robertson Cup Champion, Shreveport Mudbugs.
 
The IceRays continued to make huge strides in the commitment department with 13 NCAA commitments in 2017-18 and the team also led the NAHL in attendance last season. All of the recent success has made the team and city a premier destination for NAHL players. However, with the success also came change this off-season as head coach Brad Flynn took an opportunity to coach in the Western Hockey League resulting in a new head coach in 2018-19, Ryan Cruthers. The new IceRays bench boss will look to continue where Flynn left off. Many of their philosophies on the ice, in the locker room and away from the rink overlap and Cruthers is making the transition while maintaining the same level of expectations built over the last two seasons.
 
“I’m extremely excited to be coaching in the NAHL. Corpus Christi is a great city and the IceRays have a great foundation in place for success with great ownership and staff. We had some good camps over the summer and I think we are going to have a very talented team. We are going to be hard-working, fast, disciplined and play an honest 200-foot game,” said Cruthers. “We know the level of the South Division is extremely good and every game will be a challenge, so we are going to have to be ready from the start.”
 
Cruthers joins the IceRays after finishing the 2017-18 season with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League (USHL), serving as Interim Head Coach and Assistant General Manager starting on January 2 and leading the Steel to the USHL postseason and a First Round series victory.
 
“We will have some short term goals and some long term goals, but I think everyone in our organization has aspirations of winning the Robertson Cup. The team has been real close the past two seasons of breaking through and even though most of our players will be new to this, along with myself, I still think that we can build the right kind of culture and identity to make us successful,” said Cruthers.
 
Watch: Ryan Cruthers video interview
 
The IceRays line-up in 2018-19 will be almost entirely new, which is partially a product of the team’s on-ice and NCAA commitment success the past two seasons. Only three players who saw regular time with the IceRays last season will be on the roster to start this year this season, which include forwards Noah Roofe, Bud Winter, and defenseman Trevor Wilhelm. The IceRays strength to start the season should be on the blueline, which include the additions of 2000-born defensemen Brian Kramer and Tyler Love, who both played a couple of games with the IceRays last season as affiliates from the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program. The IceRays also made a trade for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman and Army commit Anthony Firriolo. Cruthers said he is also excited for the return of defenseman and NAPHL grad Coltan Wilkie, who is a Colorado College commit, and missed all of last season due to injury. 
 
Up front, the Cruthers expects production to come from Kyle Moore, who brings four years of junior experience, as well as, Santeri Kartikainen, who had 52 points for Northwood Prep School last season. In goal, the IceRays will have some new faces and right now, four goalies are battling to make the team. Leading the way is German-born Florian Mnich, who is the front-runner to start. Also in the mix is Sam Best.
 
“Our team is almost entirely new, so we were looking for fresh faces in all areas. I have to credit Mike Mondoux with some excellent recruiting through this past year and in the NAHL Draft. We tried to find players that are going to fit the IceRays culture and continue our success,” said Cruthers.
 
Next up in the 24 in 24 series: Fairbanks Ice Dogs
 
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